Reexamining Term Limits.
Much has been made in recent months about the folly of career politicians — especially in light of the government Shutdown™. While this anger is largely justified — how can someone representitively legislate when they do not understand the core problems of the people they are supposedly representing? — the only real solution presented has been to suggest that the time is right for term limits. This begs the question of whether or not the idea will actually help in eliminating politicians who are out of touch with their people.
At first glance, putting forth a strict term limit sounds like a great idea. No matter how bad someone is at creating policy, there is a limit to how long they can ruin the country. We do the same thing for Presidents, so why not Congress? However, it seems to me that it requires a depressingly cynical point of view that says all politicians are shills with no interest beyond staying in office. Surely, a decent argument can be made to that affect, but it doesn’t seem to bear out in reality. The honest politician isn’t a myth, just an incredibly small minority of the general political population (JFK, Reagan, Eisenhower, McCarthy, FDR). In essence, with a hard term limit, for every John McCain, Lindsey Graham or Diane Fienstein that you kick out of office, you also lose a Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Tip O’Neal. That’s why I think the standard battle cry of “TARM LIMITS NAUUUWWWW!!!” is somewhat flawed. With that in mind, I would like to suggest an addendum that will accomplish both ends.
Imagine, if you will, a system where instead of placing a hard cap on the amount of time someone can serve, we create a system that will test their patience and, by extension, their willingness to serve. Instead of having 20-30 year career politicians, have a system where (for example) you can only serve three consecutive terms and afterwards are ineligible to serve in congress for two terms — during which intermediate time, that person is ineligible for a federal pension, benefits package, diplomatic immunity or holding public office. In essence, those congresspeople who want to serve beyond the three-term limit must spend two terms as private citizens in the districts they claim to represent. This should serve three purposes: 1) it should limit the “career politicians” as they have to have something to support them during their two term “furlough”. 2) It should filter out the shmucks who want to be in Congress simply because of they are power-hungry. 3) It should help guide/refuel the few paragons of freedom and justice as they have to experience the messes that the federal government creates… thus inspiring the desire to create fewer of those messes in the first place.
There is definitely a place in such a system for rewarding those people who have given of their lives in service to the country. If someone is done being in Congress and isn’t willing to submit to the mandatory waiting period before returning, they should be able to submit a form that would cause them to lose their eligibility to serve in Congress at a later date… at which point they would be able to collect the retirement and benefits package that they are entitled to as retirees from the federal government. Admittedly, this system would create a danger of increased nepotism in the federal government — as an endorsement from an about-to-be-furloughed member of Congress would be worth its weight in platinum — I think that the rate of nepotism in the federal government is so ridiculous at present that any increased danger would be fairly negligible.
To be sure, I don’t suggest the above as “the” solution to America’s problem with out-of-touch career politicians, but I feel that the above is at least the beginning of an idea that would work. If someone out there has some experience writing in legalese and wants to adapt something similar into a bill, please go for it. More than just serving notice that Americans refuse to be ruled by an elite ruling class, I feel this a proposal that a number of Americans could get behind and push through Congress. Our elected officials have to learn a lesson: either they are of, by, and for the people, or they will not be in government.